When we last left off, Cameron had just taken several flights to face his fears. He decided he was finally strong enough to live with and accept himself.
And now the exciting conclusion of…
How I Got Over My Anxiety.
(intro music and title sequence)
When we landed in Toronto and I said to Sally “If I can maintain this version of Cameron, I’ll be fine,” it was a big moment. Because I was essentially saying, after decades of work, that I was done fixing me. It was also, I thought at the time, the end of me really growing.
For the past ten years or more, I’d woken up every morning thinking about my faults and what needed to be fixed. Then I’d spend the day working on fixing them. Essentially, focusing on my problems was my full-time job.
They say people are either motivated by moving towards pleasure or away from pain. I was an “away from pain” kind of guy. Hating me and my thoughts was what motivated me to see a therapist, and read self-help books and do Sedona and take improv. Hate was working, was I really gonna give that up?
Yes. I had reached the point where I didn’t hate me anymore. If years ago someone had said to me, “Accept and love yourself as you are,” I would’ve said “No way. I hate how I am. If I accept this version of me, then I’m accepting that I’ll remain shitty and always be shitty. Why would I want to do that? That sounds shitty.”
Now I felt like I’d grown enough to not be shitty. I was ready to love me.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.
I love me.
What an arrogant thing to say! Who is this fuckin guy? Is this post gonna be all about how he loves himself? Yes. Yes it is.
There’s a difference between arrogance, which is fueled by insecurity (“Yo man, how much you bench?”), and love, which is fueled by love. I love me. It doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you or don’t love you. It simply means I accept this Cameron as he is and think he’s enough right now.
So now I wake up every morning thinking about all the good things in my life. And I spend all day being grateful for all the wonderfulness. Moving away from pain had got me to neutral, I didn’t realize there was the whole other end of the spectrum.
I thought accepting was the end of growth. Since accepting myself as I am, I’ve grown way more, way faster. Mainly because now I get to enjoy the ride.
If you’re not sold yet, here are some things I noticed right away:
1) I started exercising. I wanted to recommend exercising earlier in the steps (get in touch with your breath, move, be in the moment), but I didn’t really do it myself until pretty recently. In that past, I exercised in hopes of looking better. Putting muscle on this skinny body so I wouldn’t have to be self-conscious about being “bony.” But my body-hate-fuelled workouts were never fun, so I’d never commit to them.
Now I’m in the best shape of my life. I regularly bounce on a mini trampoline, and do like 10 chin-ups, then turn to Sally and say “I’m huge now!” and it’s because I exercise for the fun of it. Doing it for love, instead of hate. Find an exercise you like, instead of one you think will “fix” you.
2) I noticed that people were less critical and judgemental of me than they were in the past. I assumed (like most humans) that everyone’s brains work approximately the same way. Meaning, like mine. When I noticed my stupid mistakes, I assumed everyone else saw me through the same shit-coloured glasses (opposite of rose?). As I got more compassionate and loving towards me, I noticed people wouldn’t judge me as harshly. Perhaps they never were. It’s all perception, man. [bong hit]
3) Another great thing was I got fired. I knew advertising wasn’t my passion, and I started to hate it and myself for still being there. So for a while (okay, years) I was grumpy and shitty at work. But that didn’t change anything. Then I started to accept it, and like it, and by the end have fun and enjoy it. I stayed in a job I hated until I stopped hating it. Then guess what? It went away. I learned what I needed to learn. The job didn’t make me happy. I did.
And I got to start doing what I love. Teaching improv.
In the past, when people said there was no way to make money from improv, I thought, “That’s true, I’ll stick with advertising.” But this time I said, “I don’t care, I’m gonna do it anyway.” So suck it. (Last part wasn’t out loud.)
4) I started to become more spiritual. Or maybe it can be defined as, I switched from being pessimistic to optimistic. When something happened (good or bad), I felt like I knew it was for a good reason. The Universe, karma, God or whatever, was orchestrating everything for the greater good. So if I missed a bus, I was meant to miss it. For a reason I might never know, and don’t need to know.
During SNL’s 40th anniversary, there was a clip of Stephen Colbert auditioning for the show. I imagine when he didn’t get picked, he was down about it and probably defined that as bad. But it freed him to become something even bigger and better. Yes, I’m saying The Colbert Report was bigger and better than SNL. Deal.
I stopped seeing things as good or bad as defined by me in that moment, because I don’t know what the bigger picture is. For most people, getting fired is “bad.” Until they start doing what they love, and their lives are way better for it.
5) I also stopped needing approval from others to feel good about myself. When I didn’t love myself, I would look to other people to let me know if I was worthy of love or not. I needed to hear the audience laugh to feel like I had a good show. I needed my boss and coworkers to like me to be able to concentrate at work. I would gauge how total strangers looked at me to decide if I was attractive or not. This is a tough one to let go of, but I started to feel like I had a strong case on how I’m an okay person, even when others seemed to say otherwise.
All of these things just happened. Not because I pushed to make them happen. There’s a self-help saying, “What you focus on grows.” For years I focused on what was wrong with me (or what I thought was wrong). But now I focus on what I love instead. And those things grow and grow every day.
Love is just as good a motivator as hate and pain. From my experience, it’s actually better. Back when I hated my body and my job, they didn’t change. But loving and accepting them, they’ve changed completely. It was counterintuitive to me, but that’s what happened.
You wanna quiet the constant thoughts? Stop hating those thoughts. You wanna have a “better” body? Stop thinking you need a “better” body. You want to be all anxiety-free like me? Stop thinking you need to be all anxiety-free like me.
If you go back to the first post in this series, I wrote that Step 1 was “Realizing there’s a problem.” Followed by “Deciding to change.” I’m gonna revise that to:
STEP 1: Nothing needs to change.
There are no problems in this moment. You are enough and worthy of your love exactly as you are right now.
I thought I needed to work through Steps 1-6 to get to the point where I could love me. But you can skip all those steps (sorry for wasting your time) if you can start to love yourself now, even for one second. Just one second. Then do it again. And again. And again. And it’ll grow.
Recap of Step 7: You don’t need to change to love yourself. Love is about accepting yourself as you are. Not comparing to others or the past. It’s being okay with your body and mind as it is, right now, and knowing that you are enough. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re perfect and there’s nothing to change, but knowing that there’s no point not liking yourself until those changes happen.
Gonna say it again: accepting and loving yourself as you are right now doesn’t stop you from growing or “getting better,” but it will stop the pain and suffering that comes with hating how you are right now.
I’ve used tough love and suffering to fuel change in my life. And it worked. I’ve also used love and joy to fuel change in my life. I can honestly say the second way has been better – and much, much easier. Both work, but with the love one, you get to enjoy the ride. And if life is a ride, fucking enjoy it, man. [bong hit]
I love me. I love Sally. I love you. I hope you love you, too. Thanks for reading.